Report of Attorney General on the Use of Deadly Force by State Police Trooper in Howland on June 6, 2014

January 21, 2015

Close to midnight on Friday, June 6, 2014, Dale J. Saucier, 36, was shot and wounded by State Police Trooper Benjamin Campbell during an armed confrontation inside Mr. Saucier’s residence in Howland.

Facts

On Thursday, June 5, 2014, Trooper Benjamin Campbell interviewed the 13-year-old nephew of Dale Saucier after he ran away from Saucier’s residence in Howland where he had been living. The nephew told Trooper Campbell about alleged threatened physical abuse by Mr. Saucier and incidents in which Mr. Saucier allegedly forced the boy to consume alcoholic beverages. On Friday morning, June 6, 2014, a DHHS caseworker visited Mr. Saucier and his girlfriend Angela Doane at their residence. The visit was in response to the report that Mr. Saucier’s nephew had run away the previous day after an altercation with Mr. Saucier. Mr. Saucier learned from the caseworker that his nephew would be staying elsewhere for the weekend. Mr. Saucier was concerned that the boy would end up in foster care. He and Ms. Doane went shopping in Lincoln at which time they purchased a 30-pack of beer. They returned home and consumed all the beer. They then went out for a short ride and returned home where they continued to drink alcohol.

Two boys who were friends of the nephew stopped by the residence. When they left, Mr. Saucier discovered that he was missing some cigarettes. Believing the boys had stolen his cigarettes, he became angry, swearing, throwing things and upended the kitchen table. At about 8:45 p.m., Ms. Doane left the residence and walked to a store to buy cigarettes. When she returned, Mr. Saucier apologized for his behavior. At about 9:30 p.m., Ms. Doane retired to a bedroom. A while later, Mr. Saucier entered the bedroom wanting to talk, but Ms. Doane rebuffed him. He returned with an empty bottle of Ibuprofen that he threw at her.

At 10:51 p.m., the Regional Communications Center (RCC) in Bangor received a 911 hang-up call from a cellular phone number, which was later determined to be the number of Mr. Saucier’s cell phone. A dispatcher called the number back and received no answer, so she left a message. At 11:09 p.m., the dispatcher made a second call back and spoke with a man who identified himself as Dale Saucier of Howland. The dispatcher engaged an apparently intoxicated Mr. Saucier in conversation for about seven minutes. Mr. Saucier claimed no knowledge of the hang-up call, but admitted to drinking beer and ingesting of a bottle of Ibuprofen about 20 minutes earlier. When asked if he had an emergency, Mr. Saucier made statements such as “not yet” and “maybe.” He also told the dispatcher to give him about a half hour and then send the “morgue.” Mr. Saucier said he did not want an ambulance, but that a “hearse” should be sent instead. The dispatcher told him that she needed to send an ambulance to make sure he did not overdose, to which Mr. Saucier replied, “That’s kind of the whole point. It’s kind of defeating the purpose isn’t it?” Mr. Saucier also indicated that there was a woman in his residence with whom he had fought earlier, but she was “alright for now.” When asked about the presence of any weapons, Mr. Saucier asked if steak knives counted and made a flippant remark about throwing them at a trooper.

At 11:17 p.m., the dispatcher contacted Trooper Campbell and told him that Mr. Saucier was intoxicated and had consumed a large quantity of pills, information that would prompt a law enforcement welfare check. Trooper Campbell was familiar with Mr. Saucier from two prior contacts, the first during the summer of 2013 and the second from the day before. On both occasions, Mr. Saucier had been drinking.

Within five minutes of the notification from the Bangor RCC, Trooper Campbell arrived at the Saucier residence in a mobile home community. Mr. Saucier’s residence included a wooden staircase structure with a railing and a small landing at the same level as the entryway of the home. Trooper Campbell was in full uniform and driving a marked cruiser. The time was 11:22 p.m. He knocked on the door and heard someone stumbling around inside, after which he observed Mr. Saucier looking out a window. Trooper Campbell used his flashlight to illuminate his uniform to make sure Mr. Saucier knew he was a police officer. Mr. Saucier opened the door and asked Trooper Campbell what he wanted. Trooper Campbell told Mr. Saucier he was there because someone had made a 911 call. Mr. Saucier denied calling 911 and added, “You guys called me.” Mr. Saucier came outside onto the porch holding a can of beer. He appeared intoxicated and was having trouble maintaining his balance. Trooper Campbell asked Mr. Saucier about the pills he had taken. Mr. Saucier admitted to taking pills, but said he did not know what the pills were or how many he had consumed. When Trooper Campbell asked to see the pill bottle, Mr. Saucier said he had thrown it somewhere. Trooper Campbell asked Mr. Saucier if his nephew was home, and Mr. Saucier told him that his nephew was staying elsewhere.

Mr. Saucier told Trooper Campbell that he was going back inside to look for the pill bottle and agreed to permit Trooper Campbell to assist him. Mr. Saucier and Trooper Campbell were both in the kitchen of the residence when Mr. Saucier pointed out the pill bottle on a counter. Trooper Campbell observed that the bottle was empty, but had apparently contained Ibuprofen. When Trooper Campbell asked how many pills he had taken, Mr. Saucier told him that there had been all but ten pills in the bottle when he took the rest in four swallows. Mr. Saucier told the trooper that he had taken a large quantity of pills once before. Trooper Campbell began to suspect that Mr. Saucier was suicidal. He determined how many pills Mr. Saucier had likely taken and, believing that Mr. Saucier may have overdosed, called for emergency medical services. The time was 11:33 p.m. Mr. Saucier heard Trooper Campbell request EMS and became agitated, saying he could take care of himself and did not want EMS in his residence.

Trooper Campbell noted that the kitchen was in disarray, with chairs knocked down and cigarette wrapping papers strewn about the floor. Mr. Saucier told him that he had gotten into an argument with his girlfriend. Trooper Campbell recalled Ms. Doane from their conversation the prior day. Trooper Campbell also noted a VW Beetle, which Ms. Doane had previously told him belonged to her, parked in the driveway. Trooper Campbell believed Ms. Doane was somewhere inside the residence.

Mr. Saucier told Trooper Campbell that he did not want Trooper Campbell or EMS in his home. Trooper Campbell told Mr. Saucier that he was not leaving until EMS checked on him. Mr. Saucier then said that his “beat girlfriend” was in the bedroom. Trooper Campbell associated this statement with Mr. Saucier’s earlier statement about an argument, as well as the condition of the kitchen. Mr. Saucier then said, “What would you do if I ran around the corner and grabbed a gun, went into the bedroom, and shot her?” When Mr. Saucier mentioned his girlfriend, he was pointing toward the rear of the mobile home. Mr. Saucier had become increasingly agitated.

The arrival of an ambulance prompted a neighbor’s dog to start barking. Mr. Saucier went to the door and announced that no one was coming in with a dog. Trooper Campbell assured him that EMS had no dog and the dog belonged to a neighbor. Mr. Saucier then locked the door to prevent the EMS personnel from entering. Trooper Campbell unlocked the door and opened it for the EMS personnel, but Mr. Saucier partially blocked the door with his foot and tried to close it. Trooper Campbell used his foot to keep the door slightly open as did one of the EMS personnel from the outside. The door was open only enough for the EMT to position his body between it and the door frame. The three men were in close proximity in the entryway. While jostling to keep the door open for EMS, Trooper Campbell noticed a small rifle consistent with a .22 caliber in a corner of the room. The EMT spoke directly with Mr. Saucier, who told him that he had taken the large quantity of pills. The EMT told Mr. Saucier that he needed to go with them to get checked out, but Mr. Saucier refused, telling them all to leave. When the EMT told him that they were there to help him, Mr. Saucier replied, “I don’t need no fucking help. Did you bring a shotgun?”

Trooper Campbell and the EMT continued their efforts to persuade Mr. Saucier that he needed medical attention, but he steadfastly refused. Both the EMT and Trooper Campbell told Mr. Saucier that he was going to the hospital one way or the other. Trooper Campbell told Mr. Saucier that he would have to handcuff him if he did not go with EMS.[1] Mr. Saucier then said to Trooper Campbell, “I’m going to ask you this question. How many people get hurt in between? You?” Mr. Saucier made references to being a wild animal backed into a corner. He also said, “No fucking doctor is gonna look at me, ‘cause I’d rather fucking shoot him than look at him” adding, “Is that where we need to go?”

Without warning, Mr. Saucier lunged past Trooper Campbell toward the rifle, causing the slightly opened door to push back against the EMT. Mr. Saucier grabbed the barrel of the rifle as Trooper Campbell took his foot off the door and forced it against the stock of the gun in an attempt to hold it to the wall. Mr. Saucier was able to pull the rifle free, turn and begin “trotting” with the gun into the living room. He moved toward the back hallway where he had earlier indicated his “beat girlfriend” was located. Mr. Saucier carried the rifle with both hands with the barrel pointed to his left.

When Mr. Saucier was a couple feet away and still moving toward the rear of the mobile home, Trooper Campbell drew his sidearm and shined his flashlight at him, ordering him to drop the gun. Mr. Saucier did not comply, said nothing, and continued toward the rear bedroom area. As Mr. Saucier neared the corner of the room leading to the hallway, Trooper Campbell fired his service weapon three times and Mr. Saucier, struck by the gunfire, fell down. About 35 minutes had elapsed between Trooper Campbell’s arrival and the shooting.

Trooper Campbell immediately checked on Mr. Saucier’s condition. He then went into the bedroom to check on Ms. Doane and found her uninjured. He summoned the EMS personnel to render aid to Mr. Saucier. Mr. Saucier was transported via Lifeflight to a Bangor hospital where he was treated for two gunshot wounds to his left side. One shot entered his left forearm and passed through. Another shot entered his left chest wall and fractured his left clavicle without exiting. Mr. Saucier’s rifle was determined to be a .177 caliber lever action carbine style BB air gun.

Analysis and Conclusion

State law requires that the Attorney General investigate any incident in which a law enforcement officer uses deadly force while acting in the performance of the officer's duties. 5 M.R.S. 200-A. The only purpose of the Attorney General’s investigation of the incident in Howland was to determine whether self-defense or the defense of others, as defined by law, was reasonably generated by the facts so as to preclude criminal prosecution of Trooper Campbell. The review did not include an analysis of potential civil liability, of whether any administrative action is warranted, or of whether the use of deadly force could have been averted.

Maine law permits any person, including a law enforcement officer, to use deadly force in self-defense or the defense of others if two requirements are met. First, the person must actually and reasonably believe that deadly force is imminently threatened against the person or against someone else; and, second, the person must actually and reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to counter that imminent threat.

Whether the use of force by a law enforcement officer is reasonable is based on the totality of the particular circumstances and must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, allowing for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a given situation. The analysis requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each case, including the severity of the crime threatened or committed and whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of others.

Attorney General Janet T. Mills has concluded that at the time Trooper Campbell shot Mr. Saucier, he reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force was imminently threatened against Ms. Doane and himself. It was reasonable for Trooper Campbell to believe it necessary to use deadly force to protect Ms. Doane and himself from deadly force. Trooper Campbell acted in defense of Ms. Doane and himself. The Attorney General’s conclusion is based on an extensive scene investigation, on interviews with numerous individuals, and on a review of all evidence made available from any source.

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